Bowles hopes his second chance pays off

by Gary Shelton on April 1, 2022

in general

Bowles ready to take over for the Bucs./TIM WIRT

Friday, 4 a.m.

His resume is impressive. He is the finest developer of talent in the NFL, and one of the best game-day coaches. He has ended a lot of NFL careers.

He is Bill Belichick, and he is recognized as a great coach.


He has won 290 games, and six Super Bowls, and he has laid waste to the AFC East. He's been a three-time coach of the year and an executive of the year.

Ah, but once, Belilchick was just another recycled football coach.

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Before Belichick got smart, before he had Tom Brady, he was a mediocre coach in Cleveland. He won 36 games and lost 44. His first year in New England, he was 5-11.

You know what they say: Sometimes, a guy just needs a second chance.

Think of that as you consider Todd Bowles, the new football coach of the Tampa Bay Bucs. Yeah, he fizzled with the New York Jets (doesn't everybody?), going 24-40. No, he couldn't clean up the ongoing mess that are the Jets.

But winning as an NFL coach isn't just about deciding whether to go for it on fourth-and-one. It's largely circumstance, and surroundings. Most coaches don't win with lousy quarterbacks or shaky defenses or poor draft choices.

Bowles won 10 games once with Ryan Fitzpatrick. But after Fitzpatrick fell to five wins the year after, the Jets went on a quarterback search. They won five games with Josh McCown in 2017, then four in the first year of Sam Darnold's budding disappointment. Hey, there is a reason the Jets have been through 14 head coaches since Weeb Ewbank turned out the light.

So, yeah, it's fair to give Bowles a second look, isn't it?

Once, Marv Levy was a fine football coach.

His Hall of Fame career included trips to four Super Bowls. Yes, he lost them all, but not many coaches get to four. He changed things in Buffalo, and he's thought of as the best coach in the history of the franchise.


It wasn't always so.

Before his success in Buffalo, Levy was just another guy with a whistle. He was the head coach for six seasons in Kansas City, and he went 31-42.

Ah, but with the Bills, he had Jim Kelly and Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed and Bruce Smith. Levy is a testament to second chances.

At Bowles' introductory press conference Thursday, he said all the right things, accepted the right expectations. Most coaches can do that. No one loses an opening press conference.

Bowles' challenge is a different one that most new head coaches. He has to maintain, not retrain. He has to stay out of Tom Brady's way. He has to coordinate with Byron Leftwich. He has to prove that last year's lapses in the secondary were because of injuries. He has to restore teeth to the pass rush. And, with a five-year contract, he'll have to massage this team to succeed on the other end of Brady's career.

Pete Carroll is thought of as a very good coach. He has only one Super Bowl, but the Seahawks have been a threat for a long time. A lot of people love the job that Carroll has done.


Carroll's career got off to a sputtering start, too. He coached the Jets to six wins, but was fired after one year. He went to the Patriots, where he won 27 games in three years, but was bounced. The word was that he was too soft.

But in Seattle, he remade his image. Of course, he moves into next season without Russell Wilson, so he has fresh challenges.

Then again, doesn't everyone?

If you believe departing coach Bruce Arians, this was at the core of his decision to step aside. He wanted Bowles to be able to take over a successful program, not a rebuilding one. When neither Bowles nor Leftwich got a job this off-season, Arians was disappointed. He says that when Brady chose not to retire after all, the timing seemed perfect to him.

"A number of people have already asked, 'Why are you stepping away from a chance to go to the Hall of Fame and win another Super Bowl?' " Arians said. "Because I don't give a s--- about the Hall of Fame," Arians said during Thursday's news conference. "Succession is way important to me. This has been my dream for a long time. Guys that know me, they knew I wanted one of my guys to take over."

Granted, the trend league-wise is to hire offensive coaches. Bowles thinks defensive backgrounds can be an advantage.

"Coming here with the people I've been around and understanding what I've come from and how I've been coaching, it kind of changed the way I saw things and the way I coached," Bowles said. "I think this will help me the second time around.

"I don't consider myself a defensive-minded coach when I become a head coach. I am a head coach of the entire team. There will be situational football, and me and Byron will talk about third-and-1s, two-minute, end (of) the ball game. You become a head coach, and I think there's this thing going around that defensive coaches can't be head coaches, because you don't see them, and I think it's quite the contrary. "

Mike Shanahan knows. He won eight games (12 losses) in a year and a half with the Raiders. With Denver, he won two Super Bowl titles. Gary Kubiak was a below .500 coach with Houston, but won a Super Bowl in Denver. Sid Gillman had a losing record with the Rams, but won an AFC title with the Chargers.

Will Bowles be like that? It's too soon to know at hello. We know he's respected. We know he called a blitz that was folly against the Rams. Somewhere in the middle, we will find the truth about the man.

For now, he deserves a second chance.

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